Israel Sins - Page 3 (series: Lessons on Judges)
by John Lowe
For they came up with their cattle, and their tents—they brought their flocks and their herds with them, to eat up the crops and grass; and, they pitched and removed their tents from place to place, for the convenience of feeding their cattle, while they cut down the fruit of the earth everywhere they found it. All this proves that they were different tribes of wanderers who had no fixed residence; but, like their descendants the Bedouins or wandering Arabs, they moved from place to place to get game for themselves and feed for their cattle.
And they came as grasshoppers for multitude; or "as locusts", they were like them in that they were a great number of them, and for devouring all they came to.
And their camels were without number—which they brought with them, to load and carry off the plunder they could not eat. Midian was a place famous for camels and dromedaries, 26(Isaiah 60:6) and so was Arabia. The people of Arabia joined the Midianites in this expedition; of whom Leo Africanus says, that they think of their riches as the number of camels they own; so if anyone speaks about the riches of such-and-such a prince or nobleman, he says that he possesses many camels, and not so many thousands of pieces of gold 27(see Job 1:3).
Without number—That is, so many that it was not easy to number them. And to make it even harder, they did not travel like a regular army, but in a confused swarm, to plunder the country.
And they entered into the city to destroy it—this was their sole aim, to wipe out their hated enemy, Israel.
6 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.--KJV
6 So the Israelites became very poor because of Midian and cried out to the LORD for help.--GW
And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites—this is the purpose of Gods punishments; to call his to repentance, so that they may seek help from Him. The Israelites were reduced to a very low condition, where they faced starvation because the Midianites and the other children of the east that joined with them to live by plunder (long before this, the Sabeans and Chaldeans had plundered Job) made frequent incursions into the land of Canaan, destroying the fruits of the earth, year after year. This fruitful land was a great temptation to them; and the sloth and luxury into which the Israelites had sunk after forty years’ rest made them and their substance an easy prey to them.
And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord— Israel’s sense of God’s hand revived at last. For seven years, year after year, the Midianites made these inroads upon them, each one, we may suppose was worse than the other (v. 1), until at last, all other helps failing, Israel cried unto the Lord, for crying to Baal ruined them, and would not help them. When God judges he will overcome; and sinners will be made either to bend or break before him.
Their first reaction to these attacks should have been to seek God’s forgiveness and help, instead of going into dens and caves; however, better late than never; they cried, not to the idols they had served; but to Jehovah the God of the whole earth, and who was in a special sense their God, though they had forsaken him.
7 And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites,
8 That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage;
9 And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land;
10 And I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice.--KJV
7 When the people of Israel cried out to the LORD for help because of what the Midianites had done to them, 8 the LORD sent a prophet to them. He said, “This is what the LORD God of Israel says:
I brought you out of Egypt. I took you away from slavery. 9 I rescued you from the power of the Egyptians and from the power of those who oppressed you. I forced people out of your way. I gave you their land. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the LORD your God. You must never fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you will live.' But you have not obeyed me.”--GW
Here goes Israel again, whining and complaining. But God is gracious and good. A prophet came and told them why they were in their present condition. They cried out to God, and God in mercy sent them another judge.
And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, because of the Midianites. Because of the oppressions and bad treatment of them by the Midianites, and not because of their sins, which had brought those evils on them, of which, at present, they seemed not to be practical; and yet such was the goodness and compassion of God to them, that having a mind to deliver them, he immediately, on their crying to him, sends them a messenger to bring them to a awareness of their sins, and prepare them for the deliverance he designed to work for them. Observe the notice God took of the cries of Israel, when at long last they were directed towards him. Though, in their prosperity they had neglected him and courted his rivals, and though they never sought after God until they were driven to it by extreme hardship, yet, because of their complaining and prayers, he intended relief for them. Thus would He show how ready He is to forgive, how swift he is to show mercy, and how inclined to hear prayer, so that sinners may be encouraged to return and repent 28(Ps. 130:4) .
That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel. When Israel cried out to the Lord for help, He sent them a prophet to remind them of their idolatry. He reminded them that God had delivered them from the Egyptians and other oppressors, urging them to not fear the gods of the Amorites. However, the oppression is viewed by the writer of Judges as the means of God’s disciplining His people for idolatry, because they have not obeyed His voice. There can be no doubt that the prophet was reminding them that they did not deserve deliverance because of their repeated relapses into idolatry. He did not say, however, that there would be no such deliverance.
"A man, a prophet", as he is called in the Hebrew text, not an angel, but a man; and he is not Phinehas as some Jewish writers say; for it is not probable that he could live for more than two hundred years; and had he been living, it is more likely that he would not have been heard of in the times of the preceding judges, and that he was not made use of before now to scold the people for their sins. But it is more likely that it was some prophet or teacher raised up by the Lord to warn and instruct them. Such were his witnesses, and they were raised up from time to time to declare the counsel of God to his rebellious people. Abarbinel supposes he was raised up for a short time. But we are not told who the prophet was; we have no account either now or hereafter, here or elsewhere.
Now observe the method God took of working deliverance for them.
• Before he sent an angel to raise them up a savior, He sent a prophet to convict them of their sin, and to bring them to repentance. This prophet is not named, but he was a man, a prophet, not an angel, as 29ch. 2:1 . Whether this prophet took an opportunity of delivering his message to the children of Israel when they had met together in a general assembly, at some solemn feast or other great occasion, or whether he went from city to city and from tribe to tribe, preaching this message, is not certain; but his errand was to convince them of sin, so that, in their crying to the Lord, they might confess their sin with sorrow and shame, and not waste their breath by only complaining of their trouble.
• They cried to God for a deliverer, and God sent them a prophet to instruct them, and to make them ready for deliverance.
(1.) We have reason to hope that God is planning mercy for us, if we find he is by his grace preparing us for it. If to those that are sick he sends a messenger, an interpreter, by whom he shows unto man his uprightness, then he is gracious, and grants a recovery 30(Job 33:23, 24.
(2.) The sending of prophets to a people, and the furnishing of a land with faithful ministers, is a token for good, and evidence that God has mercy in store for them. He thus turns us to him, and then causes his face to shine 31(Ps. 80:19).
Which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage. He came in the name of the Lord and using the approach and manner of speech that was used by the prophets of Israel that came before him, he put them in mind of the true God they had forgot, and who was still their Lord and God. He reminded them of the benefits they received from God, and the obligations they lay under to serve him, who, when they were bond slaves in Egypt, he appeared for them, and brought them out of their miserable condition.